Google Analytics is a wonderful tool – that much is a given. However it can be incredibly complex, and that can make it a bit of a minefield for beginners. Here, in no particular order, are 7 of the most common rookie mistakes made with Google Analytics so you can get the most out of your data.
1. Thinking Goals and Conversions are Reserved for those in E-Commerce
I have to admit to being guilty of this one in the past. It’s easy to get into the mindset that “conversions=sales,” but this is most definitely not the case. If you offer a service or sell products offline, you may be interested to hear about “microconversions.” These are conversions on small events that get the user a tiny step down the sales path; such as accessing certain pages crucial to sales, interacting with on-page video, joining your mailing list or downloading certain files from your site.
You can easily set goals in Google Analytics by clicking “Admin” in the top bar, and selecting “Goals” in the right-most column. From here you can set your account up to record a number of microconversions. This video is well worth a watch if you are new to setting up goals.
2. Installing Tracking Code on Some Pages but Not Others
Google can only track visits on pages that have the appropriate code embedded. Even if you think that particular pages are not important to your website strategy, the results may surprise you. Some pages such as the blog listing page, or pages that consist only of automatic feeds from social media or elsewhere sometimes get overlooked in rolling out analytical functionality, so it’s worth making sure that every publicly available page on your domain is covered, including any new web pages going forward. It’s much better to get a full picture of what’s going on than to knowingly leave gaps in your data.
3. Getting Hung Up on One Metric or Report
Yes, the “Audience Overview” report may be the first one you are presented with when you log in, and it does have some very informative metrics, but there are far more reports in the sidebar to access. Getting hung up on one individual metric is also a no-no. For example, lots of businesses obsess over their site’s bounce rate. It’s an important metric, sure, but there are many of equally important data points to consider, depending on your industry and what you want out of your site. Geographic location of your readers may be of interest to you, or whether they view your site on mobiles, tablets or PCs.
Also remember you can access historical data for the entire duration of time that your site has had the analytics code embedded. If you want to compare January 2015’s performance with January 2016’s for example, you can do that, provided the appropriate code was installed earlier than January 2015.
4. Comparing Incongruous Metrics
Continuing with the same example, if you compare January 2015’s average session duration with January 2016’s average session duration, you are likely to find some correlations, provided your website hasn’t changed too drastically in the meantime.
However, to give a rather inelegant example, if you compare January 2015’s average session duration with January 2016’s bounce rate, you are unlikely to glean anything meaningful. It might sound an odd thing to advise, but I’ve seen it happen. It wasn’t pretty.
This “comparing oranges with apples” example can also be applied to other analyses that aren’t so obviously counter-intuitive. For example, comparing the quarter up to Christmas to any other time of the year is unlikely to serve much purpose. Comparing Christmas 2015 to Christmas 2014 has a much higher chance of pointing out meaningful correlations and differences, especially for a retailer.
5. Relying on Google Analytics for an Overall View of Online Performance
Google Analytics is undoubtedly an important ally in getting a good idea of how your company is doing online. However, remember that it isn’t the be-all and end-all of your online visibility metrics; especially if your company is active on social media.
Let’s talk about social media analytics for a moment. You can gain a lot of insight into your social following on both Twitter and Facebook by using Facebook Insights (available to those with Facebook Like Pages with more than 40 likes), or Twitter Analytics. Here you can take a look at which of your social posts performed the best, which ones reached the most people, and which ones achieved the most engagement with other users.
If you send out marketing emails, it is also important to include their successes and failings in any overview of your company’s online performance. Most email marketing tools such as MailChimp allow you to measure the success of individual campaigns by seeing how many people opened them, how many clicked on links within the email, how many emails bounced back, and how many people responded.
6. Not Dealing with Referral Spam
As I discussed in my previous article, referral spam is very much a pain in the proverbials. The long and short of it is that third parties are sending fake data to Google about your site’s visits for their own gains. It muddies up your data making it harder to see what’s really going on.
However, there are ways and means to get around them. I highly recommend Referrer Spam Blocker, who allow you to automatically install filters (that filter future visits) and segments (which filter your historical data) for all referral spam sources known to them. This may not be an ideal solution because as more sources come out you will need to visit the site and apply the filters again, but if it means more accurate data, I know which I’d choose.
7. Not Using It!
Last but not least, we have the cardinal sin of newbie webmasters. If you have Google Analytics installed, by all means use it! It is an incredibly powerful tool to keep an eye on how your site is doing, offering a fantastic insight into how people are finding your site, what they do once they’re there, where your site is most popular geographically, even down to what kinds of devices and browsers they are using to visit. It allows a great depth of insight into how your site is doing on the whole, so if you are putting it off for whatever reason, why not have a tinker and see how deep the analytics rabbit hole goes…Are you making the most of your Google Analytics data? Make sure you avoid these 7 mistakes. Click To Tweet